Rhode Island Paid Leave Bill Being Considered

Following fellow New England neighbors Massachusetts and Connecticut, a bill has been filed in the Rhode Island Assembly which – if approved – would require Rhode Island employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.
If ultimately signed into law, the bill (H 5413 – “The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act”) would apply to all Rhode Island employers and employees and provide for the following:

  • Earn 1 hour of “paid sick and safe leave” time for every 30 hours worked;
  • For new hires, time would begin to accrue upon commencement of employment; 
  • Earn up to and take up to 56 hours or seven days of “paid sick and safe leave” time per year; 
  • Allows for the time to be used for:   

1. An Employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or condition;

2. Care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or condition;

3. Closure of the employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school has been closed due to a public health emergency;

4. Care for employee or member of employee’s family who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Allows employers the option of “front loading” the time or providing the time in a lump sum at the beginning of a year; 

  • For accrual-based policies: carry over unused time from one year to the next; 
  • For lump sum policies: allow employers the option (as a matter of policy) to pay out unused time at the end of each year (in lieu of a carryover); 
  • Provides job and anti-retaliation protections to employees seeking to take time in accordance with the bill’s provisions; 
  • Require employers to provide written notice to employees an also display a poster about the rights and protections.

The bill does provide employers with the ability to meet the minimum requirements through an existing paid leave time off policy provided that the scope of the benefit is sufficient to meet the accrual requirements and can be used for the reasons and in accordance with the same notice and documentation obligations and protections as outlined in the law.  In this regard, “reasonable documentation” couldn’t be required of employees to produce unless more than three (3) consecutive days were taken.
The bill is gaining traction and support in the General Assembly and Governor Raimondo has voiced support as well.